ALAMEDA -- Nature enthusiast, park pioneer and Sierra Club founder John Muir (1838-1914) is the subject of a documentary that will be shown on June 26 at the Alameda Free Library.

The film is a first for Alameda resident Anthony Garvin, who works as an environmental lawyer.

"I started it about one and a half years ago as part of a film class I was taking through Cal Extension," Garvin said. "I turned it in, expanded it, broadened it and made it into a full-length feature of nearly an hour."

Garvin said he was glad to make the effort.

"I've been an environmental lawyer for 40 years and a bit of a one-trick pony throughout my life," he explained. A Seattle native, he grew up hiking, mountain climbing, skiing and "always being interested in the environment. This led him to begin reading Muir's books.

"Over the past few years, I've been wandering around Yosemite and the Sierras following in his footsteps, visiting areas he described, recording them in photos and then with video," Garvin said. "It's been a very interesting learning experience."

His film includes footage of Muir's birthplace in Scotland, Yosemite National Park, the Sierra, Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. It aims to highlight significant events in Muir's career as a naturalist and tell the story of his life.

"Making the film took me to Scotland, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and many areas that he explored in California. Muir took eight trips to Alaska and was the first person of European descent to discover Glacier Bay," Garvin said.


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After coming to the United States at age 8, Muir went on to study for a time at the University of Wisconsin. He then trekked 1,000 miles on foot from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. From there, he caught a steam boat to San Francisco.

When he arrived, "Muir asked a passerby for directions out of town and was directed to the Sierra. Of course, he spent several years in Yosemite, where he worked as a shepherd and at a saw mill in Yosemite, while doing self-directed studies as a naturalist," Garvin said.

Muir soon married his first wife, Louisa Strentzel, the daughter of a successful orchard owner in Martinez, and his home there is national historic site.

"He was so widely traveled and left us such a legacy," said the filmmaker. "He was really a preservationist, meaning that he didn't want things cut down, though I refer to him as conservationist, as well."

One of the biggest lessons of Muir's life that Garvin aims to stress in the film "is how much a single individual can accomplish," he said. "It's pointed out through the interviews that I did."

He spoke with park rangers, curators and historians for the film, and also included historic photos, drawings, excerpts from Muir's writings and plant pressings in his documentary.

"Muir was extremely knowledgeable, articulate and passionate about the environment, preservation and establishing national parks," Garvin said. "I hope this comes through loud and clear. He was largely self-taught and made amazing contributions in scientific areas and in conservation, preservation and environmental ethics. He's a real inspiration."

IF YOU GO
What: "In Search of John Muir" film screening by Alameda filmmaker Anthony Garvin
When: 6:30 p.m., June 26
Where: Alameda Free Library, 1550 Oak St.
Cost: Free